New Delhi, April 2, 2022: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that where the ‘right of user’ of any land is vested in the State Government for the purpose of laying an underground pipeline, compensation up to 20% of the market value of such land payable in addition to the compensation awarded for such use u/s 9(2) of Haryana underground Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 2008 is to be calculated on the date of publication of the declaration of acquisition of such ‘right of user’ under Section 4(1) of 2008 Act,
The factual background of this case is that in 2007, a notification under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1894 Act) was issued intending to acquire a compact block of land that is spread over the villages Khanpur Kalan, Khanpur Khurd, Wazirpur and Jharali for the purpose of construction of Jhajjar Thermal Power Plant. From 2007 to 200, through separate awards, the Land Acquisition Collector (LAC) assessed the identical market value of the acquired land. The Reference Court (RC) was approached with various reference applications filed under Section 18 of the 1894 Act.
The RC passed different awards which were impugned before the High Court. This judgment disposed of a batch of 226 appeals filed under Section 54 of the 1894 Act while assailing the correctness of different awards of the RC.
Also, in this case, the ‘right of user’ was acquired for laying down an underground pipeline to carry water from Akheri Madanpura to Jharni @ Jharali through an underground pipeline. In this respect, the Additional District Judge, in the exercise of powers under Section 9 (3) of the 2008 Act passed an award. Impugning these awards four connected writ petitions were filed by Jhajjar Power Limited seeking a writ of certiorari to quash the said award.
The 2008 Act enables the State of Haryana to acquire the right to use the land for laying underground pipelines for carrying water and gas in the State of Haryana, while Section 9(2) of the 2008 Act prescribes that 20% of the market value apart from the real damages shall be payable for the acquisition of the right of users in land for laying underground pipelines.
In the pipeline matter, notification under Section 3(1) of the 2008 Act was issued on August 27, 2009, which was followed by a notification under Section 4 on November 5, 2009. The competent authority-cum-District Revenue Officer announced the award on March 12, 2010, while assessing the market value of the land at the rate of Rs.16,00,000/- per acre. Consequently, the landowners were held to be entitled to 20% of the market value i.e Rs.3,00,000/- per acre.
The Court observed from the reading of the judgment passed by the Principal Civil Court that the amount of compensation was assessed after working out the increase in the price on the basis of two policy decisions taken by the Government of Haryana on April 6, 2007, and November 9, 2010.
Further, the Bench of Justice Anil Kshetarpal noted that the Lower Court, after taking note of the difference of 35 months and 30 days between the date of enforcement of policy dated April 6, 2007, till the date of award i.e. March 12, 2010, assessed the amount of compensation.
In light of this fact, the Court opined that the gap is to be calculated only up to the date of notification under Section 4 (1) of the 2008 Act which is the preliminary notification. Further, the Court opined that Section 9(2) of the 2008 Act prescribes that the compensation shall be calculated at 20% of the market value of the land on the date of publication under sub-section 1 of Section 4 of the 2008 Act.
Thus, the Court observed that there was a gap of approximately 31 and a half months and the Tribunal erred in calculating the gap up to the date of the award which is not the intent of the statute.
Therefore, while holding that the amount is to be calculated as on the date of publication of the declaration under Section 4(1) of the 2008 Act, the Court held that the amount of Rs.16,00,000 would increase to Rs.19,03,628.50 per acre instead of Rs.19,43,791.
“Hence, the various awards passed by the RC on 19.01.2015 shall stand modified and the landowners are held entitled to one-fifth of Rs.19,03,628.50, which comes to Rs.3,80,725.70 per acre”, held the Court.
As far as the appeals in respect of the thermal power plant project are concerned, the Court allowed the appeals filed by Jhajjar Power Limited whereas the appeals of the landowners were dismissed. Consequently, the various judgments passed by the RC were set aside and the various awards passed by the LAC were accordingly upheld.